I can’t go out tonight because it feels like someone is stabbing me repeatedly in the stomach; I can’t go out tonight because the pain makes me need to lie down and hold in my tears; I can’t go out tonight because after two stomach relaxers, I feel dizzy and drowsy; I can’t go out tonight because the time I would spend out I now need to spend in the bathroom.
All I say to the you, though, is “I can’t go out tonight. I’m sorry.”
But I’m not sorry for you. I’m sorry for the painful, wasted hours I have ahead of me.
It might take three bowls of pasta or two giant glasses of milk to ease my twisting stomach. Carbs and dairy: the two things that sometimes help. I’ll try not to think about the unnecessary calories being consumed. First, I’ll try to resist eating them at all. I’ll be strong for as long as I can.
* * *
My stomach has betrayed me at inconvenient times all too often: during a movie, on the way to a date, while shopping, after a meal that I enjoyed, in the middle of a workout, during an important exam.
And because not too many people know — because I can’t just stop my life — I continue on as though nothing is happening deep inside the confines of my dark, twisted stomach. Perhaps a grimace slips through now and again when a stab is particularly jarring, but, for the most part, I hide it well.
I’m not blind to what’s happening, though. Oftentimes I can anticipate the arrival. When stress and anxiety are triggers, I dread situations that are bound to cause flareups. However, I can’t avoid a formal presentation in front of my classmates, an internship or job interview, or a large party or event full of people whom I barely know. Situations that make the average person nervous enough are a double-edged sword for me: One side of the sword stabs at the more common nerves, stress, worry and anxiety — the feelings you easily understand — while the other side of the sword stabs at my stomach both during the situation and in anticipation of the situation — something you don’t even know about.
* * *
“I can’t go out tonight because I have IBS.”
That’s what I really want to say to you. Even more than that, I want you to understand.
But I don’t want to explain that IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and I don’t want to watch you suppress the snicker that the syndrome’s name easily elicits.
I just want you to be okay with me cancelling last minute.
I don’t have uncontrollable diarrhea (yes, I’m embarrassed to even type that word on my blog). Instead, I have stomach spasms and constipation (again, embarrassed). Though, this is all part of what I don’t want to explain to you.
I will explain that one of the reasons I exercise vigilantly and eat a healthy, vegetarian diet is to control my sensitive stomach. If you know about my condition, you’ll know what I mean by “sensitive stomach.” If you don’t, just nod and end the questions there.
I don’t want to tell you what’s wrong with me, but, on the other hand I do.
I know that you won’t always be okay with last-minute cancellations. I know that you’ll ask questions. Sadly, I know that you’ll think it’s a funny name and syndrome to have. So instead of telling you in bits and pieces as I slowly feel more comfortable with you, I wrote it all out. I hope you’re reading it because this is all the explaining I care to do.